Paul David Hewson was born to a Protestant mother and a Catholic father in Dublin, Ireland, on May 10, 1960. When he was a teenager, buddies nicknamed him Bono Vox after a hearing aid store in town. The name stuck, and he is now known simply as Bono. He is a lobbyist for the world’s poorest people, three-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and front man for one of the longest-running and most successful bands, U2.
Like many other rock stars, Bono lent his name, fame, and talent to various causes, notably Band Aid and Live Aid in the 1980s. Since the '90s, though, he has transcended the role of photo-op philanthropist and focused his advocacy on the elimination of extreme poverty. He is a strategic international lobbyist who regularly meets with world leaders to argue for debt relief, medical aid, and other initiatives.
Well-loved, famous, charismatic, and a master of the facts, Bono has made himself hard to say "no" to. His facility with the intricacies of world economics -- he has earned a reputation as an absolute "wonk" --has helped him make unlikely converts. Inspired by Jubilee 2000, the initiative to end third-world debt, Bono continued to build coalitions in Washington, D.C., at a time when most development lobbyists had given up, convinced the Republican White House would not increase aid to developing nations. After years of persistent relationship-building, Bono stood next to George Bush when he announced a $5 billion aid package to the world’s poorest countries: crediting Bono, Bush joked, "Dick Cheney walked into the Oval office [and said] 'Jesse Helms wants us to listen to Bono's idea.' "
That unlikely quartet — three conservative Republicans and a rebellious singer who used to call the White House live on stage to protest U.S. policies in Central America — points to the strength of Bono’s organizing: his willingness to create alliances with those who can help regardless of political affiliation and his refusal to concern himself with "optics." Reflecting on some of his more controversial decisions, Bono recalls that U2 guitarist "Edge was pleading with me not to hang out with the conservatives. He said, 'You're not going to have a picture with George Bush?' I said I'd have lunch with Satan if there was so much at stake. I have friends who won't speak to me because of Helms. But it’s very important not to play politics with this. Millions of lives are being lost for the stupidest of reasons: money. And not even very much money. So let's not play, ‘Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys?’ Let's rely on the moral force of our arguments."
To Name This Day:
Be Persistent: Bono’s unwillingness to take no for an answer is legendary: he was known in the George Bush White House as "the pest." "Once my foot is in the door, I'm hard to get out," he said. Today, try one more time gently but intently knocking on a door that seems to be closed.
Collaborate with Difference: Fortune Magazine named Bono one of their "World’s Greatest Leaders," and writer Ellen McGirt explained why: "Bono is able to do one of the most extraordinary things that leaders should either be able to do or work towards which is find common ground with people who are very different from you. It is his signature move. Ask yourself the question, Who is the person that is the farthest away from you and what you believe that you can possibly imagine? — and go make a deal with that person. That is what Bono's been able to do.”
Think of a situation in which you are a leader. What issue, idea, or person feels fundamentally different from you? Pull back a bit from the close, personal view, in order to get a broader view. From there, can you see common ground with that person, issue, or idea?
Explore your motivations. These are Bono’s thoughts on what does and does not motivate him: "I am not really motivated by charity as much as I am motivated by justice. That's where I came in. Christ only speaks of judgment once. It's about the way we treat the poor. I think it's the second most important theme of scripture after redemption, is how we treat the poor. So I'm just doing what I'm told."
What is the difference between charity and justice? In your wisdom or faith tradition, what are you essentially told to do?